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Australian efforts driving cervical cancer progress, but challenges emergeAustralian efforts driving cervical cancer progress, but challenges emerge

Pacific Friends of Global Health 2 mins read

As we observe Cervical Cancer Elimination Day of Action, there is a pressing need to ensure that all women everywhere have access to the HPV vaccine, along with appropriate screening and treatment to prevent unnecessary deaths. Despite being one of the most preventable and successfully treatable forms of cancer in 2020 there were at least 340,000 death world wide. 90% of these deaths were in low and middle income countries.

The HPV vaccine was co-invented by Professor Ian Frazer, 2006 Australian of the Year,  whose research on the link between human papillomavirus and cervical cancer established that 95% of cervical cancers are caused by HPV. The HPV vaccine is one of the most impactful initiatives supported by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance which has supported the provision of the HPV vaccine to lower income countries since 2012. This vaccine is instrumental in averting approximately 17.4 deaths for every 1000 children vaccinated and since 2012, Gavi investments have helped overcome supply challenges to protect 16.3 million adolescent girls.

Nossal Institute Hon. Professor Helen Evans, said: “The world has made extraordinary progress against cervical cancer and indeed Australia is on track to achieve elimination by 2035. Global co-operation through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has powered the scale up and rollout of the Australian discovered HPV vaccine, through the developing world, saving more than 16 million lives.

Despite this success, stronger financial and political commitment is needed to ensure that young girls everywhere have access to this vaccine.

“The picture is not nearly so positive for women in low and middle income countries including our near neighbour PNG and we are now at an inflection point. We are grappling with supply constraints and disrupted health systems due to the pandemic, leading to a worrying decline in HPV vaccine coverage. We need to get back on track.”

Professor Evans said that cervical cancer strikes women right at the time when they are most engaged in child rearing and contributing to their communities. The protection afforded by the HPV vaccine is much more than a health measure. When women survive their families and the broader community also benefit

“When we lighten the burden of cervical cancer we create a springboard for the empowerment of women and girls,” Professor Evans said.

The WHO SAGE recently recommended a single-dose vaccine schedule for the HPV vaccine down from a two dose schedule which will potentially simplify the vaccination process.

“Encouraging signs of an expanded supply post COVID and single dose vaccination represent a powerful opportunity,” Professor Evans said.

“This creates the very real possibility of reaching the target of protecting approximately 86 million adolescent girls in lower and middle-income countries with this lifesaving vaccine by 2025.”

Contact: Nick Lucchinelli 0422 229 032

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